Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - A press release issued Thursday by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (formerly Handgun Control, Inc.) shows just how desperate the group is to claim support for its position, according to one of the country's leading advocacy groups for gun owners.
"They're totally grasping at straws here," said Erich Pratt, communications director for Gun Owners of America (GOA). "They've got the news 'fact' that gun sales may be down and so they're trying to put the best spin possible on this. It's just laughable."
The Brady Campaign referred to a report published by "Shooting Industry," the firearms manufacturing industry's "business magazine since 1955." In the report, editor Russ Thurman noted a six percent drop in the manufacture of new firearms by U.S. companies between 1999 and 2000.
"While gun manufacturers like to claim 'victory' after a short-lived spike in handgun sales after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the data shows otherwise,' the Brady Campaign claimed. "The truth is, despite industry hype following Sept. 11, fewer Americans bought handguns in 2001 than in previous years."
The press release noted that the FBI reported performing fewer background checks for gun purchases in 2001 than in 2000. But Pratt says that only means there were fewer government monitored transactions, not fewer sales.
"You're always going to have a certain percentage of the gun buying population that simply does not want to put their names on a government list," he explained. "Many law abiding citizens will purchase firearms privately to avoid a background check, which they fear only provokes harassment and intimidation by anti-gun bureaucrats in the government.
"The fact is that guns are very plentiful in this country," Pratt noted. "Over 40 percent of the households have guns in them."
He said the Brady Campaign engaged in "Enron-style massaging of the numbers" to support its case, failing to mention significant data from the Shooting Industry report.
Of the top three handgun manufacturers in 2000, two saw an increase, not a drop in sales. While Smith & Wesson's sales fell by 21 percent, sales of Ruger handguns increased 11 percent and Bryco Arms saw a 71 percent increase in its sales.
The number of firearms imported to the U.S. also rose five and a half percent from 2000 to 2001, accounting for an additional 1.4 million new firearms available to U.S. consumers.
Even if the Brady Campaign's claims were true, Pratt insisted, they would still not support the conclusion that fewer Americans were choosing to arm themselves against criminals.
"If there were fewer refrigerators sold last year because we were in an economic downturn, and fewer cars sold, and fewer stereos," he asked, "what does that then suggest about the claim that there were fewer guns sold? Is there some kind of 'victory' in fewer of everything being sold?"
Bureau of Labor Statistics figures for the years 1999 and 2000 indicate that consumer spending was, in fact, down in 28 of the 45 discretionary spending categories monitored by the government.
Pratt said the most contentious claim made by the Brady Campaign was its accusation that gun manufacturers tried to capitalize on the terrorist attacks on the United States.
"After Sept. 11, the gun industry took advantage of a [sic] understandably fearful public to try to sell more guns," said Mike Barnes, president of the Brady Campaign.
Pratt told CNSNews.com he was not surprised that the group would make such a claim.
"They can be shameless," Pratt said, arguing that both gun dealers and their customers were "responding logically" to the threats made evident by the attacks, and by videotapes showing al Qaeda members armed with only firearms practicing attacks on civilian targets.
"People didn't know what was going to be next," he explained. "One day it was airplanes, the next day it could be office buildings or homes. They just wanted to be able to defend themselves."
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